As part of their 2018-2022 strategic planning, the Fonds de recherche du Québec (FRQ) are committed to strengthening the integration of the principles of equity, diversity and inclusion in scientific assessment. The following statements reflect the vision of the FRQ with regard to these principles.
Equity refers to fair treatment, including the elimination of systemic barriers that disadvantage particular groups. Fair treatment is not necessarily the same for everyone, but takes into account different personal realities, both present and historical, to provide all individuals with access to the same opportunities for the promotion and support of research.
Diversity refers to the presence within the research ecosystem of people from different groups, which promotes the expression of diverse perspectives, approaches and experiences, including those of underrepresented groups. The FRQ value the contribution of this diversity to research.
Inclusion refers to the establishment of practices that allow all members of the research community to be and to feel valued, supported and respected, paying particular attention to underrepresented groups.
To help strengthen equity, diversity and inclusion in research, the Fonds de recherche du Québec have introduced new measures that will also promote excellence in the research they support. It is important to dispel the myth that equity runs counter to excellence. On the contrary, the prejudices and systemic barriers faced by certain individuals because of their gender, ethno-cultural origins or disability may deprive the research community of access to top talent. Furthermore, the adequate consideration of diversity in research projects, for example through gender- or sex-based analysis, can increase their impact, allowing a greater proportion of the population to benefit from research.
Unconscious bias in scientific assessment
Whether we like it or not, we all have biases. These can influence our judgement, often without our knowledge. When the scientific evaluation of an application is influenced by unconscious biases based, for example, on the applicant's gender, ethno-cultural origins or disability, the evaluation is no longer based on excellence.
To mitigate the influence of unconscious bias in the scientific assessment process, individuals taking part in the Fonds de recherche du Québec's peer review process will henceforth be encouraged to take a short online training course. In the interest of avoiding duplication for the scientific community, we have chosen to use the Unconscious bias training module developed by the federal funding agencies and available on the Canada Research Chairs website.
While this training course is not mandatory, we hope that a critical mass of reviewers will choose to take it to help enhance the fairness of the assessment process. Please note that all Fonds staff responsible for evaluation committees will be required to complete the online training module as well as additional training..
Considering sex and gender in research
Given that public research should benefit the greatest possible number of people, the Fonds de recherche du Québec believe that the research projects they support should take human diversity into account, for example by including, where relevant, comparative analysis based on gender or sex. As a result, funding applicants will now be required to state, directly in their application form, whether their research project includes a gender- or sex-based comparative analysis. The inclusion or absence of such analyses must be justified by applicants.
This information will not be transmitted to the reviewers and will not affect the scientific assessment of the projects. This addition to the application forms is intended to allow the Fonds to document the consideration of sex and gender in proposed and funded research projects. Please refer to Section 5.4 of the Fonds' Common General Rules for further details.